Many would argue that Joe Iconis birthed the rock ’n’ roll musical theater cabaret and helped create this concert culture, first with his collection of songs “Things to Ruin,” which premiered at Ars Nova in 2006. Around the same time, writing duo Kerrigan and Lowdermilk were putting on shows around town, and future Tony nominees Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s song cycle “Edges” became a YouTube phenomenon.
Iconis recalls being frustrated at the slow process for mounting a new musical when his thesis show from NYU, “The Black Suits,” got stuck in developmental hell. (Seven years later, “The Black Suits” is playing through Nov. 24 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles.)
“My whole idea from the beginning was to have a night that didn’t feel like a night of new musical theater songs by a new composer,” says Iconis, who now has a regular act titled “Joe Iconis and Family,” with signature touches such as plastic party cups and Christmas lights. “The idea of using this form in a way that it hadn’t necessarily been used before was really exciting to me. It wasn’t like I want to do my songs so that people will hear them and then I’ll get jobs. It’s like, I want to put on a show.”
When writers like Oliver and Drew Gasparini saw Iconis’ shows, they were inspired to do the same. “I’m a huge fan girl for Joe,” Oliver gushes. “I still try desperately to be friends with Joe,” adds Gasparini. And the place to hold your concert was Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater.